You might think that when a tenant breaks a rule, that you can simply fine him like you would fine an owner-occupant. Or, you might think that you can just notify and fine the owner/landlord for his tenant’s violation, since he’ll ultimately be responsible for the fine anyway, right? These assumptions are intuitive; however, anyone who has been around condominiums and HOAs long enough can tell you that the laws governing them are not always intuitive. In fact, sometimes it seems like the legislators threw common sense right out the window!That is not necessarily the case here, but it is important to know that in Wisconsin there is a statute that speaks directly to how condominium associations are to go about assessing fines for violations to tenants—and if you do not follow the statute to the letter, your fines will most likely be unenforceable. The statute involved is Wis. Stat. Section 703.24, “Remedies for violations by unit owner or tenant of a unit owner.”
You can see from a quick glance at the statute that fining a unit owner who commits a violation is a much simpler process than fining a tenant who violates. Section 703.24(2) addresses unit owner violations, and simply says that “A unit owner who commits a violation is liable for any charges, fines, or assessments imposed by the association pursuant to the bylaws or association rules as a result of the violation and may be subject to a temporary or permanent injunction.”
If a tenant is the one violating the rules, however, the much-more-involved subsections (3) and (4) of the statute apply. Here is what you need to know:
- In order to ensure that the unit owner is ultimately responsible for fines for tenant violations, you must comply with the notice requirements of the statute.
- To comply with the notice requirements of the statute:
- Your letter must state “the amount of charges, fines, or assessments for which the tenant is liable.”
- Your letter must state that “if the tenant fails to pay the association the amount for which the tenant is liable within 30 days after the tenant receives the notice, the owner is liable to the association for the amount unpaid by the tenant.”
- Your letter must be sent to BOTH the tenant and the unit owner/landlord, and it must be sent via registered or certified mail to both. (There are other acceptable delivery methods mentioned in the statutes, such as “personal delivery,” but doing so leaves you no written record—that is why I’d recommend going the registered/certified mail route. I would also recommend that you send a copy to the tenant and owner via regular mail, just in case they refuse to pick up the registered/certified copy.)
As implied in Section 703.24, if you follow the above steps, the Association can hold the unit owner responsible for the tenant’s fines if the tenant fails to pay them within 30 days. That means that the Association also secures its rights to lien the unit owner’s unit for unpaid fines, and ultimately foreclose if both the tenant and owner/landlord continue to ignore the notices.